60th Wagner
Obituary for Major General Robert Edwin Wagner (USA, RETIRED)

Major General Robert “Bob” Edwin Wagner died on August 14, 2013 in Smithfield, Virginia at the age of 78. General Wagner had a distinguished 33 year career in the United States Army, including two combat tours in Vietnam. The highlights of his career were his three years as the 60th Colonel of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Nuremberg, Germany; and his final assignment as the first Commanding General of Cadet Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia, where he was responsible for the pre-commissioning training of all Army officers. He also commanded a tank battalion, an armored cavalry squadron, and served as Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver) for the 1st Infantry Division. His awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with V device and 2 Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (Gold and Bronze). He was also awarded the William Dupuy Award in 2006 for services rendered to Cadet Command. Second only to his family, General Wagner cared passionately about the Unites States Army until the day he died.

General Wagner graduated in 1953 from Fairfax High School, where he met his beloved wife, Charlotte White Wagner, who passed away in 2011. After he graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1957 and married Charlotte, they began their 30-plus year adventure in the United States Army. In 1958, General Wagner successfully competed for a Regular Army commission at Fort Ord, California, and in the process fell in love with maneuver warfare, a love that never died. He was a brilliant tactician, and authored several influential articles on combined arms operations that were taught at TRADOC schools for many years, in particular The Warrior Manual for Mounted Combat. General and Mrs. Wagner were stationed in Georgia, California, Kentucky, Kansas, Colorado, Virginia and Washington state. They also spent a total of 7 years in Germany. During their time with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, General Wagner became known as “the Dueler” and Charlotte as “the Queen.” They were the King and Queen of the mythical Kingdom of Dragoon, a conceit developed to encourage friendly competition between the three squadrons and their “Dukes,” as they guarded the border of the free world at the height of the Cold War. General and Mrs. Wagner were known as Dueler and Queen from that time onward.

After retiring from the Army in 1990, General and Mrs. Wagner remained in the Tidewater area of Virginia. General Wagner fulfilled his lifelong dream of writing a novel, The Sampan War, based loosely on his time in Vietnam, and worked for five years at Norfolk State University as a special assistant to the President for recruitment and retention. When he finally retired for good, he remained active in the Kiwanis Club and the Old Point Comfort Yacht Club, for which he served as Commodore for several years. He served as a docent at the Mariner’s Museum, where he gave a rousing presentation on the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac, and at the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe. And, in one of his favorite roles, he read to school children at Barron Elementary School in Hampton as “Story Bob.” He was never happier than when one of his former “children” recognized and hailed him.
He also maintained a close connection to Cadet Command and to the Virginia Military Institute, speaking every year at the Marshall Awards. His family is grateful to the wonderful people at VMI and Cadet Command who so kindly supported and assisted him in his later years.

General Wagner is survived by his children, Caryn Anne Wagner of Arlington, Virginia and her husband, Major Carlyle Lash (USA, RETIRED); Robert Edwin Wagner, Jr. of Colleyville, Texas and his wife, Kristen Esbensen Wagner; and Kristen Wagner Rarig of Smithfield, Virginia, and her husband, Colonel Jeffrey Rarig (USA, RETIRED). He also leaves four grandchildren, Kary Wagner Nowlin and Kyli Wagner of Colleyville, Texas, and First Lieutenant Amy Ferguson, USA, and Katie Rarig of Northern Virginia. One of General Wagner’s last official acts was officiating at the commissioning ceremony of his granddaughter, Amy, at the College of William and Mary, from which all three of his children graduated and where he had commissioned his daughter, Caryn, in 1979. General Wagner is also survived by his brother, Frank Wagner, and his wife, Jean, of Arnold, Maryland. A funeral at Arlington National Ceremony is being planned before the end of the year. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the VMI Foundation Center for Leadership and Ethics (http://www.vmi.edu/Foundation/).


  1. alex collins

    MG Robert E. “Dueler” Wagner was the Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver) for Marneland, the 3rd Infantry Division (Mech), in Germany not the 1st Infantry Division as noted above. Otherwise, this is the best obit for The Dueler I’ve read.

  2. It was an honor to meet the “Dueler” as he spent his last years in Smithfield. I will always remember the glory stories he told, and the gleam in his eyes when he told them. I will cherish my copy of the “Sampan Wars”.

  3. As a very young 11D in 78-80, I looked up to then-COL Wagner as an inspiration of what a calvaryman should be. Boisterous and rebelious to political correctness. I lost track of his carrer and figured he probably didn’t get promoted after implimenting the black baret and ahead of its time camoflage painting of our vehicles. Good, tough cold war times.

    • We were wearing black berets on the border long before Dueler showed up on the scene. I think they went back to about 1970-71 or so. They were wearing them in January ’74 when I got there.

      • Thomas Dillard

        They Started the black berets in 1973 right before I left Germany I believe they started wearing them in June or July.

    • I Served on the border with “The Dueler”, 1978-80, both in B Trp 1/2 in Bindlach and Air Troop at Merrell Bks. I admired his “Panache”, a quality he said was vital to all Cavalrymen. I lost track of COL Wagner, from then until in 1986 when on Drill Sergeant Duty, I encountered him again was he was Commanding ROTC Cadet Command. We had a short time to discuss our time together on the border, it was good to have a fellow Trooper to discuss old times.

  4. Rhet Tignor

    Bob and I were active in the Old Comfort Yacht club, both serving as commodores and other roles. We raced as “jib & main” sailors off of old point comfort. Bob was the toughest opponent on the water, but always ready to hoist a glass after the race. He was very helpful in my political campaigns. I remember his tireless work on my behalf and his expectation that I would work to justify the confidence he placed in me. He was never shy about any of that. God bless Bob.

  5. I was in 2/2 acr hht from 1977 to 1980 and Col.Wagner was the man. We wore our black berats with pride in Bamberg. Everyone knew when we were around. In Support plooton we knew everyone in the other troops for we were the wheels to the machine. From chow to bullets we haul it for the best tankers in the army. SPEC.4 O.PETERS(P-FUNK) ALWAYS READY SECOND TO NONE

    • P-funk. I got to 3/2 ACR in October of 1979 so it’s possible we chewed some of the same ground. I hated to read Dueler 6 passed away but Fiddlers Green is a nice place to spend eternity. Always ready my brother.

  6. I was assigned to 3rd sqdn 2nd ACR from 1979-1981,3rd sqdn was based in Amberg Germany then and the then Col. Wagner was a larger than life officer who inspired us to be better than we ever thought we could be. I had the honor of driving the command track on one of his field problems “Dueler’s Challenge” and i learned more in 2 years under his command than at any of my other postings. Dueler 6, king of the realm rest well in Fiddler’s Green. Always ready sir.

    • Tim Allen

      I was stationed with Mike Klassen in Amberg from July 80-81. We always enjoyed when the Dueler 6 showed up and gave us a rousing speech about the Cav.
      Much respected and an honor to serve under. He was a true Cavalry officer!….”If you aint’ Cav…you ain’t _ _ _ t”

  7. CPT(ret) Bobby Crockett

    I served in 1/2 Cav from July 1977 to July 1980, so my service overlapped that of the 59th and 60th Colonels of the Regiment. The Dueler brought Panache back to the Dragoons. We learned to fight using aggressive manuever. I chewed a lot of dust & dirt from my M113 cupola. We got new ones just before Dueler time. Mine went from 7 miles to over 3,300 miles in a little over 2 years. I have a lot of Dueler stories, but they’ll have to wait for Fiddler’s Green. Always Ready, Sir!

  8. mark kubista

    Served with him in the 10th and then 2d Cav. Never knew a more professional and inspiring man. His speech to the Regiment after the hostages were taken in Iran was something for the book. We’d have road marched all the way there to get them back. His wife was quite a lady.

  9. John Barradale

    Assigned Combat Aviation Troop, C&C Squadron, 2nd ACR, Fuecht Army Airfield and Nurnberg, Germany. Had to pleasure to see Colonel Wagner a lot. I liked the berets. I hated it when some Congressman thought it wrong to have them. Instead of baseball like caps, he had us use Army Ranger soft caps. I still remember when he ordered us to arm with with live rounds and head north when vehicles were reported on the Ghost Autobahn.
    Always Ready. Charge Hard.

  10. John Tackett

    Served 1979 to 1983 in 2nd ACR , 359th ASA , I remember the Berets and the border caps , I was a guard during a war plan meeting between the Dueler and General Lewis Beckton , The General started chewing the Dueler out because we were wearing Ranger Caps instead of steel pots on Border patrol . The Colonel told him sir the border tab on their caps will stop a round as well as a steel pot . The general just laughed and said I give up Colonel . He was a very good Commander and a good Man .I loved it when he would tell the officers to go to back of the formation because he wanted to talk to the Men . RIP Sir , I will report directly to your HQ when I get to Fiddlers Green.

    • Jonathan Province

      I was in 359th ASA Co. 1979-1981, seems like a long time ago, but I remember the base commander Col Wagner then, if you aint CAV, you aint ^^^^, I was just a Private then, RIP Sir, Calvery HOOOOOOO!

  11. My first butt chewing as a young LT came from the Dueler at Hohenfels in August 1982 when he was ADC (M) for 3ID. It was a good one, too!

    He instituted Marne Maneuver in the division with lots of buzzwords for different formations and actions – the one that sticks with me the most is “Thunder Run” (all out mounted assault) and we used it in 3ID twenty years before 2nd Brigade, 3ID’s Thunder Run into Baghdad!

  12. James Morningstar

    As an impressionable young Cavalryman in 2/2ACR from 76-79 (then) Col. Wagner was the epitome the expression “If you ain’t Cav, you ain’t…..” Always Ready, Second to None, Sir.


  14. We name many of the offspring by our stallion Denlore’s Desert Storm after names of people or things related to the military. We had a beautiful Morgan colt born five or six years ago and name him after Major General Robert E. Wagner. His name is Dueler 6 in honor to the Major General and he came and paid him a visit shortly after the colt was foaled. It was an honor to have known him and own a Morgan Horse named after him. I have several photos to remember him.

  15. Eric Wilson

    I served with the 2/2 H Co. from 78-80 in Bamberg. We were the punch of many Thunder Runs and I learned to drive a tank as hard as it would go. Our cocky attitudes kept us in trouble, but when it was time to saddle up we really shined. Our leadership made sure we were prepared for whatever might come at us. Our leadership gave us the brash confidence to face our opposition. Thank you Colonel Wagner. See you at Fiddler’s Green sir.

  16. SFC Ret. Rick hollister

    I served in H co. in 78-79 as a young SGT. My first solo border mission, Col. wagner lander his bird right on a border marker and walked over and checked out our patrol. Luckily I had my stuff together and Dueler 6 was happy and left us to carry on. the guys back at at Camp Hof thought that I made the whole thing up but the guys in border ops baked me up. he was a great commander and loved his soldiers. “Toujers Pret Sir!”

  17. I was a 19 cav scout I was at regimental hht 2nd acr at Merrill barracks in Nuremberg. I was his driver of a m113a1 personnel carrier and he told me when I met him that if it ever jumped off at the border he was going to have a huey bring him to the lda and I was going to take him to link up with the FART OR FORWARD AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE TRUCK which was a modified suv with swivel cloth seats that had a color tojour pret patch on them. He was hardcore and he always asked me ,”Flores,are charging hard or hardly charging ” I always replied charging hard sir,” I also remember the day we loaded up with live ammo, stingers, 50 cal,m203 grenades the works, I was scared shitless we had a million alerts but this time we were loaded with boocoo firepower and live.The colonel walk past my track with sgt major trobough and stopped and asked if I had all my TO&E and said,”are you ready to charge hard”and said ,”yes sir”he paused and put his hand on his revolver and said, “today you can call me king dueller sixtus” sgt major trobough gave me the stink eye and they went on their way, My barracks was directly across from regimental hq so I saw him almost daily I was only 17 when I met him and from the first time I met him I thought he was like Patton. When we went on reforger and subaltern shoot or duellers challenge or somtimes randomly he’d lead us in the olHUP HUP HOOO IF YOU AIN’T CAV YOU AIN’T SHIT BUT HA WOULD PRONOUNCE SHIT SHA HEE YUT. I REMEMBER PULLING GUARD DUTY AT THE MUSEUM AT HQ WHEN HE’D HAVE MEETINGS..GREAT MEMORIES. GLAD HE MADE GENERAL.OH YEAH ONE TIME I WAS AT CAMP HOF AND I GOT IN A FIGHT THE NIGHT BEFORE AND HAD A BLACK EYE AND KING DUELLER SIXTUS APPROACHED ME WITH GENERAL MEYER WHO WAS SECRETARY OF THE ARMY AND ASKED WHAT HAPPENED TO MY EYE AND I SAID I FELL SIR, HE STARTED LAUGHING AND GENERAL MEYER GRINNED THEN HE SAID KEEP CHARGING HARD TROOPER AND WALKED AWAY. I COULD GP ON AND ON BUT I’LL CLOSE WITH HE WAS AWESOME ????RIP KING DUELLER SIXTUS.

  18. Dana Cooper

    Ramon, You said everything in the Obituary that I have been telling my friends and family for thirty years. I too was in the HHT 2nd ACR, Motor Pool, Merrell Barracks from Sept. 79 – May 82. Colonel Wagner was definitely larger than life and he instilled pride in every soldier he talked too. Like you, I have many memories of him and I also took one butt chewing from him, Well deserved I might say !. One story I have told many times, we were on a field maneuver and we were supposed to cross a farmers field to gain access to our bivouac. The farmer was refusing passage to our convoy and when Colonel Wagner arrived he addressed the farmer on “What is the problem here” ? The farmer kept saying in German, “I don’t understand English”, After a few minutes Colonel Wagner took a step back, put his hands on his pearl handled pistols and said ” Verstane this you S.O.B. We continued on across the farmers field immediately.

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